First round of REACH grants to aid housing, health, education equity

Since the foreclosure crisis, Kathe Newman has been leading research into mortgage lending disparities in communities – work that will soon be expanded to include community organizations in Camden to better understand the challenges residents face in securing mortgages and what can be done to improve access to good loans.

“We will continue the theme of focusing on the quality of home loans and whether people can get loans that are right for them,” said Newman, director of Ralph W. Voorhees Center for Civic Engagement at Rutgers, and the recipient of a Rutgers Equity Alliance for Community Health (REACH) grant to partner with the St. Joseph’s Carpenter Society on housing funding equity.

The grant is among the first round of two-year, $4 million funding from REACH. The universitywide presidential initiative aims to join community-based organizations, leaders and residents with university researchers, teachers and students to find ways to improve health and quality of life outcomes in three N.J. cities facing food insecurity, high unemployment, low high school graduation rates and low household incomes.

Seeded through a $10 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, REACH puts research into practice through community residents and leaders working on innovative approaches to bring about long-lasting systemic change and achieve health equity by addressing issues of inequity that include structural and systemic racism. REACH is designed to support Rutgers faculty, students, and staff to engage in equitable and sustainable community-based research in Camden, Newark and New Brunswick.

“By bringing together the resources and expertise of Rutgers faculty with the invaluable knowledge and expertise of those working in the community we hope to serve as a catalyst for the development of innovative programs aimed at addressing social determinants of health,” said Denise Rodgers, REACH principal investigator and vice chancellor of interprofessional programs at Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences. “Research alone isn't enough; collaboration is essential for long-term, systemic-level changes that will eventually contribute to improved health outcomes.”

In addition to Newman, six Rutgers faculty shared $287,638 in grants, which fund projects focused on positively impacting a community in a demonstrable way through an evidence-based strategy. They are:

  • Eric Seymour, assistant professor, Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Rutgers-New Brunswick, for partnering with Unity Square to research the challenges community organizations have in serving people who are unhoused or precariously housed.
  • Ethan Halm, vice chancellor for population health, Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, for partnering with New Brunswick Tomorrow and the RWJ University Hospital Community Health Promotions Program to help build partnerships between New Brunswick community-based organizations and the Rutgers Health Service Corps to improve population health.
  • Sara Elnakib, associate professor, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, for partnering with the New Jersey Food Democracy Collaborative to empower communities through asset mapping and data sharing.
  • Michael Hayes, associate professor and director of the Master’s in Public Administration program at Rutgers-Camden, for partnering with One Camden to understand equity through One Camden’s Universal School enrollment.
  • Kristen Victorino, associate professor, School of Health Professions, for partnering with the Newark Board of Education to promote the equitable speech and language service provision for culturally and linguistically diverse students in the city’s public schools.
  • Vandeen Campbell, assistant research professor and senior quantitative director at the Joseph C. Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies and the Department of Urban Education at Rutgers-Newark, for partnering with My Brothers Keeper to understand and strengthen pathways to high school graduation in New Jersey.

REACH will open applications for their second round of funding, anticipated September 15, 2023, to make 25 awards ranging from $25,000 - $200,000. Learn more on the REACH website and to sign up for updates and news for important dates, developments and deadlines.